Disturbing video footage shows the moment a pair of children who had escaped a group home fired stolen guns at police in Enterprise, Florida.
Deputies shot a 14-year-old girl after she and a 12-year-old boy broke into a home, found several firearms, including an AK47 and a shotgun, and started shooting at police, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.
The girl was shot in the abdomen and the arm and is being treated at a hospital. She’s reportedly in a stable condition. The boy surrendered and was not injured in the stand-off. The two foster children repeatedly fired at deputies for around 30 minutes, according to law enforcement officials.
The sheriff’s office said the children face felony charges, including attempted first-degree murder of law enforcement officers and armed burglary, ClickOrlando reported.
Sheriff Chitwood said the children ran away from Florida United Methodist Children’s Home around 5pm on Tuesday, managing to evade the police for hours. A passerby told law enforcement that he heard breaking glass at a home in the vicinity around 8pm. Deputies discovered that someone had broken into the home, the sheriff said.
The owner of the home had left just 15 minutes before, and according to the Sheriff, told authorities: “Nobody should be home, but I have three firearms in the house – an AK-47, a pump shotgun and a handgun – and 200 rounds of ammunition.”
Deputies surrounded the home and tried to speak to the boy and girl, but were met with gunfire. Sheriff Chitwood said that the girl, 14, at one point came outside and threatened to kill Sgt Donnie Maxwell.
“We try to deescalate, we throw a cell phone into the house to try to talk to them. The 14-year-old comes out of the garage with a pump shotgun, levels it at deputies, and despite warnings to drop it, she walks back into the garage. She comes back a second time, and that’s when deputies open fire,” the sheriff said.
Bodycam footage shows how the tense moment unfolded. Officers approach the dark house where the children are holed up, lighting their way with flashlights. Then the girl emerges.
“She’s pointing a gun. She’s pointing a gun behind the trash can,” an officer can be heard saying.
Shortly afterward, an exchange of gunfire can be seen in aerial footage. An officers shouts “Cease fire!”
The boy soon walks out of the house with his hands up, but the girl remains hidden.
“Light her up,” one officer says – and then quickly clarifies what he means. “With a light! With a light!”
The officers finally approach the girl, who is lying on the ground, remove her shotgun, and begin providing medical assistance.
Sheriff Chitwood said deputies took several rounds of gunfire before “they were left with no other choice but to return fire”, with nowhere to hide except behind trees. At least eight deputies were involved in the ordeal.
Sheriff Chitwood praised his deputies while speaking to reporters, lauding their restraint despite being repeatedly shot at. The sheriff harshly criticised the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, calling the department a “failure” and a “fraud”.
“The 14-year-old was arrested for stealing dogs, for larceny, she then got teen court, and was sentenced to a halfway house in Flagler County,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “She burned that halfway house down on April 10 of 2021 and the Department of Juvenile Justice placed her in Florida United Methodist Children’s Home.”
The 12-year-old boy has diabetes, leading police to go look for the children because “if he doesn’t get his medication within four hours, it’s going to be a critical medical emergency”, the sheriff said.
He added that deputies didn’t do what he would have done when approaching the home the children had broken into.
“I would have walked in because I have an eyewitness telling me two juveniles just forced their way into the home,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “They take a step back and contact the homeowner and say, ‘Should anybody have access to your home?’ as resources are pouring in to surround the property.”
According to authorities, the children also used bats to destroy furniture, toilets and a tub.
“Their conversation was they were going to kill my sergeant. They were coming out to kill cops. They were coming out to kill deputies, that’s the conversation,” the Sheriff said of the children.
Kitwana McTyer, the president and CEO of the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, said in a statement: “This situation is tragic and is the result of the system failing our children. These children are in desperate need of care in the appropriate setting, which is a higher level of care than we provide.
“As we have partnered with our lead agency in this program since 2007, we have found in recent times that we are seeing a higher level of children who repeatedly come through the system with escalated behaviours. We simply cannot continue to be ‘everything to everyone’.”
The Independent has reached out to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for comment.